Racial discrimination could be encouraged or even facilitated as a result of forcing landlords to carry out checks on the immigrataion status of potential tenants, City law form Bates Wells has warned.
An online service was launched by the Home Office on 25 November to help simplify the process. However, this could increase the publicity around the checks, according to Bates Wells, and lead to landlords screening out applications from overseas or those whose names are foreign-sounding, without having gone through the full due-diligence process.
Chetal Patel, partner in Bates Wells’ Immigration practice, said: “The new push the Home Office is putting behind these checks could give rise to even greater discrimination on the basis of race and nationality.”
“Individuals who have non-English sounding names, may find themselves ignored by landlords and could struggle to find a place to live, even if they have every right to be living and working in the UK.”
“Streamlining and digitising processes doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, as not all prospective tenants or tenants will have a UK immigration status that can be checked online.”
“Placing the burden on ordinary people like Buy-to-Let investors to undertake the policing of immigration rules is a poor policy decision in the first place.”
“The government has come under fire for its Hostile Environment Policy, culminating in the Windrush scandal and this latest service could add fuel to the fire.”
Failure to carry out these checks on immigration status could see landlords hit with fines of £1,000 for a first once, or £3,000 for a repeat offence. Between March 2017 and March 2018, the Home Office handed out 245 fines to landlords.